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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Prospect Park with Shale and Marty

It has been three weeks since I've ventured anywhere in the park beyond Payne Hill, the Ravine and The Pools. I didn't think I would miss anything significant at the hawk nest this morning so I met Shale and Marty on the Terrace Bridge at the south end of the park. In lieu of any apparent organized breeding survey I thought I'd look for nesting birds and any lingering migrants.

On my way to the bridge I walked through the Ravine where I heard a Wood Thrush's haunting song reverberating in the woods. I presume that this is a different adult than the one nesting at Rick's Place. At the far end of the Ravine, on the Nethermead Arches, a House Wren was singing atop a streetlight. I looked up in time to see his mate flying out of an opening at the back of the lamp housing. The design of these city streetlights seem to offer a safe and convenient nestbox for House Wrens as I've seen them in use fairly frequently. I wonder if the bright light affects their eyes.

A Warbling Vireo and Yellow Warbler were singing in the woods on the Peninsula. The vireo is a regularly nesting species but I've never confirmed any warblers breeding in the park. According to Geoffrey Carleton's "The Birds of Central and Prospect Parks" the last confirmed breeding Yellow Warbler in Prospect Park was in 1948. On Lookout Hill we heard a pewee calling in the woods and a Common Yellowthroat singing at the Butterfly Meadow. Over the last few years I've been noticing pewees lingering in Prospect Park through the summer but haven't yet confirmed any breeding activity.

We ran into Michelle near the Maryland Monument leading a trip for the Audubon Center and she told us about a Baltimore Oriole nest near the Terrace Bridge. The singing male at the top of the tree made finding the hanging basket nest relatively easy. We could hear the nestlings peeping above us. Two things concern me about this nest. First is it's location directly above the roadway. I've had to carry oriole fledglings out of harms way on a few occasions (and they bite hard) but they're usually just near a road, never above it. The second is an ongoing issue in Prospect Park. The nest construction contains many pieces of discarded nylon monofilament. Fledgling orioles frequently get twisted up in the unbreakable material and die a horrible death dangling from their nest. There are even places in the park where crow skeletons can be found suspended in trees by fishing line. During the winter of 2002, Steve and I rescued a gull with a lure through his foot and nostril. I think that it could help eliminate the problem if the Prospect Park Audubon Center and the Brooklyn Bird Club initiated a campaign to educate fisherman about the dangers of discarded lines and lures.

Barn Swallows used to nest under the Lullwater Bridge. This year, however, a pair has built their mud nest above one of the boathouse doorways, a convenient location for people coming to the nature center to learn about birds.

On my way home I stopped at Payne Hill. A Red-eyed Vireo is still singing in the area just north of the nest. A pair is probably nesting nearby. I stopped for a quick look at the hawks. Now that they are full-sized I've found that I can watch them from the sidewalk below the nest. It was about 12:10pm and both young hawks were eating. I suppose that the two birds have become more protective of their meals as, instead of sharing, they were eating back to back. Big Mama was monitoring them from the far side of the nest. When they finished she flew off. "Bebe", the smaller nestling, hop-flapped up onto a limb on the west side of the nest. He watched "Alto" with great interest as she flew back and forth across the nest. With each short flight she shook out tiny bits of molted down. Some caught in the twigs at the edge of the nest and some were carried off with the dust and pollen. After about ten minutes "Alto" decided to explore a large limb on the northeast side of the nest. She seemed much more tentative than "Bebe" and only ventured a few inches from the nest before flying back.

I guess I'll be abandoning my usual viewing spot next to the elm tree at the top of the rise. The large limbs and wide opening in the trees on the northwest side of the nest seems to be the best spot to wait out their fledge. With a little luck they'll cooperate and fly my way.
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Prospect Park, 6/12/2004
Great Egret (Flying over lake.)
Black-crowned Night-Heron (2, Lullwater.)
Wood Duck (2, Prospect Lake.)
Red-tailed Hawk (2 adults, 2 nestling.)
Chimney Swift
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Lookout Hill.)
Eastern Kingbird (Several.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Payne Hill.)
Tree Swallow (4 or 5, Prospect Lake.)
Barn Swallow (2 at boathouse nest.)
House Wren (Nethermead Arches.)
Wood Thrush (Ravine.)
Gray Catbird (Common.)
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing (Several.)
Yellow Warbler (Peninsula.)
Common Yellowthroat (Butterfly Meadow.)
Common Grackle (Abundant.)
Baltimore Oriole (Terrace Bridge.)
American Goldfinch (Lookout Hill.)

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, American Black Duck, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Sparrow

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